Week 19 – Center the Subject

The challenge for Week 19 of my 52 week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is to center the subject. Anyone that has read a book or read an article or watched any tutorials on Photography Composition knows that one of the first things ‘rules’ of Photography is to ‘never’ place your subject in the center. One of the first ‘rules’ of composition that you’ll find in any Photography Book is the Rule of Thirds.

The Rule of Thirds have worked extremely well for a very long time. The masters of art have successfully used the Rule of Thirds effectively. And, the Rule of Thirds works wonders in Landscape Photography. But, should the Rule of Thirds be used in every single photo you take? Are there times where you place your subject in the middle of the frame? Of course, there are.

For example, anytime you are taking reflection, where symmetry is key, one of the things you have to do is put the horizon in the middle. Not doing so will actually make the photo look out of whack. The bottom half of the image mirrors the top, creating symmetry which makes the photo pleasing.

We have heard this before. Rules are meant to be broken. However, you need to know the rule well enough to know when to break the rules. Not centering your subject is generally a good idea unless centering your subject will actually enhance the subject, make it easy to convey your key message, and improve the overall composition. Reflection is one perfect example where putting the subject and the horizon in the center makes sense. There are many other. It is up to us a Photographers to decide what makes in a particular situation.

For this week’s challenge, I took this reflection of Walton Lighthouse during Sunrise. I have shot Walton Lighthouse from multiple angles. I have shot reflection of Walton Lighthouse from different angles as well. This particular shot, I purposefully decided to put the Lighthouse and the Horizon in the center of the frame. The reflection naturally called for centering the subject and horizon but I did try multiple comps and this is what appealed to me the most.

Looking for Breakfast!

Location: Natural Bridges State Beach, California
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 10mm | f/8 | 1/15s | ISO 100

Ever since I joined the Escaype community, looking for Golden Hour predictions from the Escapye Forecasters seems to have become a regular part of the routine. The Forecast comes out 4 times a day and I am awake for 3 forecasts and in some cases the fourth one as well. Friday night was busy a busy night within Escaype community as Saturday was predicted to be very good for Sunrise.

I was debating whether to go to SF or SC for Sunrise. Debating where to go for a Photo Shoot has become a major part of the process. I just feel that I should just pick a place and go. I really shouldn’t spend a lot of time deciding where to to. But, I do this all the time. As a matter of fact, the core group of Photographers I shoot with do the same thing.

Anyways, the plan Friday night before I slept was to wake up in the morning and look at the latest forecast. If SF has higher numbers than SC, I would go there. If not, I’ll go to SC. If SC, I decided I’ll checkout Natural Bridges. Another Photographer from was planning to join me as well. He is part of a Whatsapp group for Photographers that I belong to. I haven’t met him before but have chatted with him via Whatsapp numerous times.

When I woke up in the morning, the first thing I did was check the forecast. Actually, I did this in the middle of the night when I woke up thinking it was time to head out. I must have done woken up multiple times throughout the night. This happens to me all the time. Sowmya tells me that I do this whenever I am planning to go to a Photo Shoot. I am not sure if it’s the anticipation of the shoot or what it is.

The numbers showed high potential for both SF and SC. When I asked the forecaster, he said go to SC instead of SF due to fog. As a matter of fact, he asked someone who was en route to SF to turn back and head to SC. So, my decision to head to SC was an easy one knowing that there was going to be fog in SF.

The drive was pretty smooth. We got there right at the beginning of Golden Hour. When we got there, what we saw was rather disappointing. We didn’t see any break in the horizon. It was completely fogged. We were really hoping that it was going to open up and the sky will light up.

We started shooting, trying to make the best out of the situation. We did meet a couple of other Escaype members. After about 30 minutes of shooting the grey skies, we realized that it was not going to open up. As always, I moved around to see what comp ideas I can try. I did look for ideas from others as people were standing in different places in the beach.

Everyone left after realizing that the sky was not going to light up. I decided to head back as well. I was on top of some rocks that were a bit slippery. On the way down, I almost took a tumble. I slipped but somehow managed to keep my balance. After gaining my balance, I see this scene in front of me. The reflection of the arch rock as well as a snowy egret. I didn’t have time to change my lens. So, I shot this with my wide-angle lens. I tried to put the bird on one of the third. I also tried to put the arch rock on the third as well.

I like the comp. I just wished the sky lit up as predicted but fog rolled in. Maybe, next time I’ll get the lit up sky from Natural Bridges.

Week 11 – Texture

The eleventh Challenge in my 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is Texture. I have seen some outstanding photos where texture was used brilliantly to convey a message or portray a story. I have been awestruck by some of the photos where the use of texture has made me feel like I am there touching what’s in the photo.

Photography is a visual medium but the use of texture in images can suggestively invoke other senses. The point of any photo is to convey a message and draw the attention of your viewers by using key compositional techniques. By cleverly using textures you can bring a tactile dimension to your photographs and make they come alive; become three dimensional. When light hits your subject at interesting angles, all the textures come into play.

Photographing Texture can often be quite challenging; you not only have to consider the texture you are working with but also how light, contrast, depth, and patterns work in conjunction with texture. I definitely have and continue to struggle with effectively utilizing texture in my photos. To be honest, I haven’t gone to places where I could have used texture as a primary compositional technique. I am sure I will before the end of this year and I may add few more photos to this challenge.

The goal this week was to experiment with different angles and use texture as this week’s primary compositional technique. So, for this week’s challenge, I took this shot at Four Mile Beach. It was a tide pool and the texture was very interesting to me and drew my attention. I decided to use it in my foreground while taking this seascape shot after Sunset. I don’t think it’s the best example of texture but to me, looking at this photo brings back memories of me standing in this tide pool and waves constantly hitting me.

Beacon of Hope!

Location: Walton Lighthouse, California
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 | 17mm | f/16 | 10s | ISO 100

This was shot the same day as the other shot (Walton’s Fire!) that I recently wrote about. We had the Lighthouse all to ourselves. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I have never seen Walton Lighthouse empty. Somehow Sowmya and I end up in places with no body around us. I remember multiple instances where this has happened – Grand Canyon, Shark Fin Cove, Uvas Canyon, Garrapata, and so many other places. We definitely enjoy when this happens.

Anyways, we went to Walton in the hopes that we’ll catch some nice colors during Sunrise. We were not disappointed. It was an awesome Sunrise. After shooting it from the middle of the pathway and getting reflection of the Lighthouse, I decided to move around a little to try different perspectives and angles. I decided to go o the left of the Lighthouse and Sowmya decided to go right. She asked me to come and check out her comp but I was too busy shooting. She got a great reflection from where she stood. The Lighthouse was not centered in her photo but the reflection was pretty nice.

I went for a long exposure shot to smooth out the water and bring that ethreal feel to the scene. Several of the shots that I took didn’t turn out the way I wanted. So, I kept at it and got this shot. Looking at the LCD, I felt that I had something to work with.

Processing was pretty straight-forward. What I need to learn is how to patiently work in Photoshop to further enhance the photo as well as clean up. I know some pros spend an hour or more on just one photo. Well, I have heard that Ansel Adams worked several hours (and in some cases, days) dodging, burning, and processing in Lightroom. That’s dedication and commitment. I take about 10 minutes per photo. I have a decent handle on Lightroom but Photoshop, I only know the very basic stuff. Lot more to learn.

Walton’s Fire!

Location: Walton Lighthouse, Santa Cruz
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 10mm | f/8.0 | 1/100s | ISO 100

Another trip to Walton Lighthouse for Sunrise. This time with Sowmya. So, Escaype forecasted slightly higher than medium potential for Santa Cruz but it was expected to be colorful. So, Sowmya and I decided to head to Walton Lighthouse to catch the Sunrise.

We woke up early in the morning and headed out in less than 10 minutes. The drive was pretty smooth; no traffic at all. Of course, at 5:00 AM you don’t expect that such traffic but with road closures and construction on HWY 17, we didn’t know what to expect. We got there about 30 minutes before Sunrise. The colors already started to show up.

It was high tide so no possibility of getting to the beach like last time. Sowmya and I tried to take a couple of shots with the curve of rocks and pathway leading to the Lighthouse. It was basically just the two of us. For some reason, Walton Lighthouse was empty that morning. Anyways, we started moving close to the Lighthouse and I see reflection of the Lighthouse on the pathway.

I immediately setup up my tripod and put the Lighthouse right smack in the middle of the frame with the reflection. I started firing away and the clouds started lighting up. It was simply superb. One of the best sunrises I have seen at Walton Lighthouse. Sowmya moved around a bit and was asking me to come there to check out her comp. But I didn’t want to change my comp. I was happy with it and kept shooting. After seeing Sowmya’s shot, I definitely should have moved. It was a very good perspective. I am glad she got it.

Right when the colors were disappearing, one of the Photographers that is part of Escaype showed up. He was shooting from Seabright beach. I could have done that as well. His comp was pretty good. If I go to Walton for sunrise again, that’s what I’ll do.

In terms of processing, I really didn’t have to do a whole lot. The colors were simply superb. I just enhanced it a bit and cleaned up some dust spots.

Guiding Sentinel!

Location: Walton Lighthouse, Santa Cruz
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 16mm | f/16 | 1/1s | ISO 100

This was shot during the same time as my last shot (Walton’s Reflection). After taking several shots of the reflection, I went up to the pathway leading to the Lighthouse and took a few shots. Nothing really worked out from there that day. When the sun started rising above the hills, I decided to go back down to the beach and use the waves as leading lines and put both the Lighthouse and sun in the frame.

I was able to execute on my vision but now that I look at the shot, having a startburst on the sun would have been awesome. I didn’t think about it while on the field. I didn’t want to miss the rising sun so I kept shooting. I didn’t want to add starburst in post processing.

I liked the way this turned out. I was able to use multiple compositional techniques on this one; the rule of thirds, leading line, balance, symmetry, and placement. In terms of post processing, other than my usual workflow in Lightroom, I also did some dodging and burning. I also cleaned some solar flares and dust in Photoshop.

Walton’s Reflection!

Location: Walton Lighthouse, Santa Cruz
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 13mm | f/16 | 2s | ISO 100

I have been to Walton Lighthouse multiple times. As a matter of fact, I met the core Photography buddies when I was at Walton one week early last year. For the first time, I tried my hand at light painting. I was then added as part of a Whatsapp Photography group, which started with just 4 or 5 Photographers. It has since group to close to two dozen Photographers. Meeting the core group that day was awesome. My photography, honestly, has grown leaps and bounds shooting with the core group. I have been to so many new places, tried so many new things. We challenge each other, learn from each other, and have fun together.

Coming back to the story behind this shot now. As I said, I have been to Walton Lighthouse several times. But this time when I visited for Sunrise, it was low tide. I have never seen Walton Lighthouse where the beach was visible on the left side of the Lighthouse. The moment I saw this, I knew I had to get down to the beach. Once I saw the reflection, I knew the type of shot I wanted to get.

So, I went down to the beach. Even though it was low-tide, waves were still coming where I was standing. And, as usual, I got drenched. I seriously need to figure out a way to stay dry. Every trip to the beach, I come back with wet pants, socks, and shoes. Anyways, once I got a bit wet, I decided to not worry about getting wet. I was moving around to get full reflection of the Lighthouse. I have not seen that comp before and I wanted to see if I could get it. I had to be quick as the reflection was only visible partially. Every once in a while, a big wave would come in and hide the reflection.

I took several shots; at least a dozen or more from the beach. I knew looking at the Camera LCD that I had some full reflections. The question was whether the shots were sharp, in-focus, and something that I could use.

This particular shot is a blend of 3 shots (HDR). Basically, I bracketed 3 shots with same focal length and aperture but different shutter speeds. The idea is to combine several photos of the same scene but shot at different exposures to create an image with a High Dynamic Range. I used Lightroom to combine the 3 images and then processed using my usual Workflow.

Sunrise Reflections!

Location: Capitola Wharf
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Sigma 17-50mm 2.8 | 17mm | f/16 | 20s | ISO 100

This was shot during the first Photo Shoot of 2017. As mentioned in my previous post, the goal for this Photo Shoot was to use the Capitola Wharf as the primary subject and capture the rising sun in the hopes that the sky would light up with vibrant colors.

I got a couple of good shots of the Wharf from the high vantage point (previous photo). So, I decided to head down to the beach. While walking on the beach taking shots of the Wharf from multiple angles, I saw this small driftwood. The last time I was here, I used driftwood along with the Wharf in my Composition. It worked out well. This time, I decided to use one of the often-overlooked Compositional Techniques; the power of simplicity.

So, I decided to just use the driftwood in my Composition. The colors and reflection were spectacular. It was beautiful. In terms of processing, I just had to do basic workflow in Lightroom. Didn’t even have to take this into Photoshop for any clean-up.

I think it worked out well!

Glorious Morning!

Location: Capitola Wharf
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Sigma 17-50mm 2.8 | 17mm | f/11 | 122s | ISO 100

One of the first Photo trips of 2017. I woke up pretty early in the morning (around 5:00 AM) to get to Capitola for Sunrise. One of my Photography buddies wanted to carpool so he came around 5:30 and we hit the road right away. We had good conversation on the way to Capitola. Another Photography buddy was planning to meet us on location.

We weren’t sure how the weather was going to turn out. Obviously, we were hoping it would be good. We did hear from sources with ‘knowledge’ of the weather that it might be a good show. This was my 2nd trip to Capitola. The first time around was during the Christmas break. I made the trip alone. The weather was ‘ok’ that day. It was extremely cold and for a period of time, I was the only person on the beach. It was a good shoot. I came back with some good shots.

When we got there, it was pretty dark. We were a bit early. The other friend wasn’t going to show up for another 10 to 15 minutes. So, the two of us decided to go down to the beach. While waking on the stairs to the beach, we saw a spot half way down that we thought would make a good spot to setup our tripods and get a shot. We wanted to get the Capitola Wharf from a higher vantage point.

This is one of the first shots that I took that morning. It was still dark but I could see beautiful colors in the horizon. I decided to go with a ultra-long exposure (around 2 minutes) to capture all the light.

We spent some time shooting from this high vantage point and then I decided to head out to the beach. I moved around and used the Wharf as the main subject and shot from all angles. When I came to this location end of last year, there were lot of driftwood on the beach. I was able to use the driftwood as foreground elements. There weren’t any this time around.

Once back home, the processing was rather straight-forward. Didn’t have to do a whole lot to enhance the colors in this photo. I did my basic Lightroom processing and then took it over to Photoshop to do some cleanup.

A spectacular Sunrise! Enjoyed it quite a bit.

Golden Glow!

Location: Four Mile Beach, Santa Cruz
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Sigma 17-50mm 2.8 | 23mm | f/16 | 95s | ISO 100

This was shot during my visit to Four Mile Beach. This shot was taken moments after the Sun set behind the horizon. We were pretty close to the water and waves were very unpredictable. It kept hitting us hard. A couple of times, small driftwoods and rocks would come hit my tripod and move it slightly but enough to cause blurred photos. I have quite a few blurred photos from this series.

I experimented with this rock in the foreground quite a bit. For this particular shot, I saw the reflection of the rock when I used long exposure. So, I decided move back a little bit to capture the entire reflection. I went for a minute and a half exposure to make sure that the waves were completely smoothed out.

There colors were there but I had to work a bit on this one to bring it to where I liked it. I worked primarily in Lightroom. Apart from my usual workflow, I did a bit more with Vibrance and Saturation. I played a bit with Camera Calibration too.